Sunday, September 16, 2012

Good Day, Sunshine



I was born in the early 1960s. I don't recall much about that era - go go boots, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon, and psychedelic colors come to mind when I think on it.

That makes me a 1970s era girl, I suppose, since that is when I came of age. The time of the "me" generation, though by age I am stuck at the tail-end of the baby boomers. I remember only vaguely things like the shootings at Kent State, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, and Watergate. I would have only been 10 years old in 1973, after all. Certainly unworldly, growing up as I did on a farm in a rural Appalachian area of Virginia.

I also remember gas lines, and gas costing only $0.25 a gallon. I remember S&H Greenstamps, the Maytag repair man, "Whirlpool makes a super dishwasher, Whirlpool" (pretty sure that was the commercial), and the Brady Bunch. We could only receive one station - ABC - on our television so I only know those shows.

My mother drove a blue Dodge Charger for a while, and I remember one night my parents went to see the movie Deliverance at the drive-in theater. My brother was put to bed in the back window and I was told to go to sleep on the back seat. Being a rather precocious child, I did not. I remember listening to the movie and being very upset by it.  I would have been nine years old at the time. It is not a movie for children.

I grew up knowing right from wrong. I learned this at home, at school, and through books. If I did something wrong, I received a whipping and quickly learned not to do it again. Some whippings were deserved, others not so much. Even the teachers whipped students back then, though only once did I receive the end of the paddle my second-grade teacher used at the time. I remember one poor kid named Jerry found the end of that piece of wood nearly every day.

This was the time schools were being integrated. This did not bother me, though it bothered my parents. One of the worst beatings I ever received came after a PTA meeting when I was in the third grade. My father had asked me not long before the meeting if there were any black teachers at the school. I had said no. My third grade teacher was black, but I loved her and I honestly did not notice that her skin was different from mine. After the PTA meeting I received a beating for lying, though to me it wasn't a lie.

Even at that age, I knew racism was a wrong. I don't know how I knew it, but I did. I knew that it was a problem for many people, and that it was divisive. I swore not to be a part of it, something I've kept to to this day.

I have a strong sense of social justice. Every day I see things being stripped from people. I see the decline of the middle class as the perpetuation of a great evil, and the men who are pursuing this downward decline are, to my mind, very evil men. They are American Wraiths, Nazguls who are power-hungry, greedy, and  hell-bent on destroying the social contract put in place by Franklin Roosevelt. They seek a new gilded age in the 21st century, a time when money means everything and they enslave the rank and file through financial dependency and illiteracy.

They've very nearly succeeded. I think back on the 1960s and 1970s now as a time of climax, the time when US society reached it pinnacle and then began this long, downward slog to where we are today.

I miss the psychedelic. I miss the color.

I miss the better times.

2 comments:

  1. What a moving reminiscence. It's hard to look back at the decades when I was sure that I lived in the best society on earth, because it assumed solidarity between citizens, a mutual social contract, with those in need helped by those able to help so that nobody need fear misfortune, old age, sickness, unemployment, all the knocks and accidents that normally make the lives of anyone not rich painfully vulnerable. Now the new consensus demands that everyone be self reliant, aspirational, competitive, aggressive, and sets out to demonise and punish, not help, those who are vulnerable and poor. This is such a cruel and selfish and greedy attitude that it is hard to believe a majority of people support it, but I think there is no doubt that they do. Why? Because those with a social conscience didn't consolidate their gains, I think. They sat back and thought they had achieved the new Jerusalem when they should have realised the old evils are never really killed. Greed and selfishness are always with us, and unless the case for a more civilised, humane society is constantly made, it is easily dismissed, simply because people naturally put "me" first, and will happily latch onto any policy which says that "me" first is okay, is even good for the country. Patriotic and selfish! What could be more seductive? Buy a big car for America! So social justice is dumped in favour of a bright, shiny, entrepreneurial dream, and anyone who isn't pushy and ruthless enough gets crushed.

    By the way, I had to smile when you recalled Jerry who "found the end of that piece of wood nearly every day." What better illustration of the truth that brutal punishment does not deter. But naturally we don't want to learn that lesson either.

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  2. I'm a 70's girl, too. You reminded me of many things, both good and bad. One thing I truly miss is the sense of community. Knowing your neighbors and being able to call them 'friends' and the awareness you had of each other in trying times or celebration. I long for my kids to know this feeling of community today, but it's much harder. Even though we know who our neighbors are, everyone is too busy on the hamster wheel to be available to each other. Something feels very wrong.

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